4 August 2012

Zimbabwe: Battle Over New Draft Zanu-PF, MDC, MDC-T Looms

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Zimbabwe statehouse: The final draft of the constitution - with the most significant reforms aimed at political and legal systems - needs to be finalised in preparation for a referendum.

Harare — BATTLE LINES are drawn over the latest Copac draft constitution, with Zanu PF trying to force wholesale amendments to the document while the two MDC parties endorsed it without changes.

In a move that threatens to further derail the troubled constitution-making process that has so far gobbled more than US$45 million and is about two years behind schedule, Zanu PF has rejected many sections of the draft and is pushing to rewrite certain clauses to ensure presidential powers remain largely intact.

In some sections Zanu PF is pushing for changes that will introduce new issues and in other areas where presidential powers have been diluted it wants them restored.

The MDC parties have made it clear the draft is a negotiated document which won't be revised.

While the parties are battling with internal divisions over the draft, the struggle will also be fought amongst the parties at principal level, the second stakeholders' conference and in parliament.

The parties will also face-off with civil society groups that have criticised the process, arguing it was not inclusive and inherently flawed.

Civil society is demanding an explanation as to why Zanu PF and the two MDCs wasted US$45 million on an outreach programme only to negotiate the document and plagiarise the rejected 2000 draft, Kariba draft and the current constitution, among others.

President Robert Mugabe and his allies, through the politburo, are demanding far-reaching changes to the draft constitution, which include the preamble, national objectives and foundations, the history and legacy of the liberation struggle, public administration, public finance, tiers of government, devolution and appointment of provincial governors.

They also want to force changes in the establishment of the constitutional court, deployment of defence forces outside the country, proposed restructuring of the Attorney-General's Office, the exclusion of traditional chiefs from the Judicial Services Commission, and introduction of term limits.

There was also heated debate since last week on vice-presidents, the provision of running mates in presidential elections, maintenance of the office of the public protector which had been removed following the adoption of the Human Rights Commission, media, war veterans, Zimbabwe's obligations under international law, citizenship, death penalty, anti-corruption, and foreign policy.

There are fears gay rights might be sneaked in through the backdoor via international instruments and they want the proposed National Peace and Reconciliation Commission abolished.

The politburo met on Wednesday for the third time in two weeks for a total more than 24 hours to discuss the draft constitution.

It is expected to finalise discussions next week and announce the party's position on the Copac document.

Politburo members, who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent, said yesterday they agreed to push for amendments on clauses which undermine the president's sweeping executive powers.

The meetings saw rival factions led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and hardliners led by outspoken politburo member, Jonathan Moyo, come together in support of amendments to the draft.

Hardliners pushing for the rejection of the draft which they view as a systematic weakening of state institutions and unmitigated onslaught on the executive.

In contrast, the two MDC formations endorsed the draft at their separate national executive meetings, arguing it represented an incremental gain in the democratisation process.

MDC president Welshman Ncube said: "We have endorsed the draft constitution and we expect it to be taken to the second stakeholders' conference, then parliament before we go for a referendum.

"It is not possible to renegotiate or alter anything without collapsing the whole process. We as a party will not accept any attempt by anybody to renegotiate any aspect of this draft. We will not accept any forum for some people to veto or alter the agreed document."

MDC-T concurred. Its spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party was satisfied with the draft constitution.

He said some of the positive aspects include dual citizenship, establishment of stronger checks and balances on the executive, provision of a strong and accountable president, creation of independent commissions, freedom of the press, devolution of power to the provinces, establishment of the National Prosecution Authority and Constitutional Court and an expanded Bill of Rights.

"The party resolved that the people of Zimbabwe must be given opportunity to decide on the draft through a referendum," he said.

Fissures have not only emerged between the coalition parties, but also within the political parties over the draft.

Zanu PF is currently divided into three groups -- an anti-draft faction led by Moyo, another defending it which includes negotiators, and a third which is neutral.

In the MDC-T some national executive committee members have expressed disappointment with certain clauses the party endorsed.

MDC-T national executive sources said divisions are mainly centred on compensation and justice for victims of state-perpetrated atrocities and devolution.

"There was not much debate on the matter (draft constitution) at the last national executive meeting in the mistaken belief that the draft had been agreed by all parties," a source said.

"However, Zanu PF's calls for amendments to the draft have infuriated officials from Matabeleland mainly over devolution."

MDC-T Bulawayo provincial chairperson Gorden Moyo conceded there were reservations among party members on issues such as devolution while sources said MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai was now having second thoughts on the clause on presidential election running mates.

Divisions at various levels -- including within and among parties, civil society and the public -- have left battle lines on the draft drawn ahead of key stages such as the stakeholders' conference, parliament and referendum that will decide the fate of the document.

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